On October 1, the oil and gas industry and their allies in the White House and Congress got what they wanted when a spending limitation on commercial oil shale development ended. The lifting of the limitation paves the way for the Bush administration to finalize its draft regulations for leasing. Unfortunately, the regulations as proposed before the limitation was ever lifted could be extremely costly for both the environment and the American taxpayer. They offer bargain basement royalty rates and few environmental safeguards.
Ironically, even the oil & gas industry admits that the technology to safely and efficiently run a commercial oil shale operation has not been developed. In effect, the limitation was lifted so that the Bush administration could fast-track an industry that does not yet exist and sell off more public lands before it leaves office.
Furthermore, the production of oil from shale would be environmentally costly because it requires enormous resources, such as huge inputs of energy and water. Oil shale production requires upwards of three times as much energy to produce a barrel of oil as from conventional sources. The power used to generate this oil would come from dirty sources that could exacerbate global climate change while contributing to pollution. Large scale development would also irreversibly degrade pristine lands and could endanger species populations.
The now-lifted funding limitation allowed research as part of a Bureau of Land Management-overseen program and on private lands owned by oil shale companies. Yet no technology to harvest oil from oil shale currently exists. Many energy experts believe that even after billions of the taxpayers dollars spent, oil shale will not be a viable option for the West.
I strongly encourage you to dig further into this issue. This is particularly important because of the misinformation currently circulating about the topic. Other media outlets, such as the Colorado Independent and the Deseret News, have caught wind of oil shales shortcomings. For more information on oil shale, please visit our Web page.
The Wilderness Society
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